Hong Kong Chamber: A Letter from Canberra (May 2015)

Budget week is one of the biggest in the Parliamentary calendar. Peak associations, lobbyists and political tragics descend on Canberra to hear about the Government and Opposition plans for the nation’s future, and try and influence them. Hotels are booked out, taxis and hire cars work overtime and the nation’s capital restaurants, cafes, function rooms and bars are packed for days.

The Abbott Government’s second Budget was dominated by small business incentives, national security, improving female participation in the workforce through childcare and paid parental leave and public service job cuts.

To boost growth, the Government has given small business owners a AUD20,000 upfront tax deduction on asset purchases and a 1.5 percent tax cut.

National security was given a AUD1.2 billion boost to combat the rising terrorist threat and the Australian Security and Intelligence Service, Attorney-General’s Department and Australian Crime Commission were all handed extra funding.

However the rest of the Federal public service was not as fortunate, with eight departments to undergo ‘functional reviews’ and more job cuts in sight. That’s after the Abbott Government has shed 17,300 jobs since it came to office. The Government is also continuing its campaign to reduce public service pay and conditions.

Another new scheme that will be of particular interest to expatriates relates to changes to HELP debts. From 1 July 2017, Australians with HELP debts who are working overseas will be required to make payments on their loans once they are earning more than AUD53,345.

The Opposition Budget Reply speech outlined not just a plan for the future, but a plan for the decades to come. A plan to build beyond the mining boom to capitalise on the imaginative, caring, productive and adaptive Australian people. The Opposition placed infrastructure, education, small business, science and technology and start-ups at the centre of its vision, to attract the best minds, support our great institutions and encourage home our talented expatriates.

A number of the measures the Opposition considered unfair in last year’s Budget still remain, such as huge cuts to health and education. In 2015, the Opposition will continue to campaign against these cuts, and continue to develop policies to take to the next election for a smart, modern and fair Australia.

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